Hanayamata – 12 (Fin)

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In a word, Hanayamata’s finale rocked. The Hanairo Festival was strongly built up throughout the show, and when it came time to finally deliver, it didn’t disappoint. We finally see the end product of Naru meeting Hana, deciding to expand her world, and ends up shining just like the fairy tale heroines she adored as a kid.

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It’s not Naru who realizes she’s shining, but her friends, when Machi messes up in their pre-festival practice and Naru has a series of embarrassing but heartfelt monologues. It’s okay if they’re not the best Yosakoi there, as long as everyone gives it their all and has fun. After all, Hana will be dancing with them within their hearts.

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…And, as it turns out, in person, as well! That’s right, Hana isn’t out of Japan long; when the others stop by to give their completed CD to her Dad, the opportunity finally arises for Hana to tell her parents what she really wants. I can understand why she didn’t say anything—she didn’t want to inconvenience her folks whom she loves so dearly.

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It’s great then than Naru, by delivering that CD, unwittingly sets things into motion that eventually leads to Hana’s return, right in the middle of the rest of the club’s performance. I could nitpick about the likelihood of Hana being able to run that much and then dance in perfect harmony with the others right after a transpacific flight—but I don’t really care how that happened, I’m just glad it did.

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I loved the tension that built as the time to take the stage grew nearer, and my heart sunk when I saw how much traffic Hana and her dad were sitting in. But when it became clear Hana’s intention was to suit up and join them on the stage, that heightened the tension even more. And kudos to Hana’s valiant police escort!

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Their performance, which includes and expands upon both the OP theme and dancing animation therein. With the fireworks “blooming” behind them, the initially skeptical (and somewhat pitying) crowd gradually buys in as they realize these girls are giving it their all and kicking ass up there. Hana’s inclusion couldn’t have been better timed, and the elation and pride felt by the club members as the dance marks an emotional high point for the show.

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What’s also great is that the crowd watching them consists of everyone’s loved ones, most of whom had little to no knowledge of their daughters’ “activities.” That includes Naru’s parents (her dad cries with joy at the sight of her), Tami’s dad (who cracks a grin), Hana’s Dad (shooting Mom pictures with his phone of Hana as happy as they’ve ever seen her), and, surprisingly, Yaya’s former band mates, there to support her. The day goes so well, even Sari and Sea Monk end up hiting it off.

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With their first major performance a great success and Hana deciding to be selfish and stay in Japan with her friends, Machi immediately starts planning for their next gig: their school’s cultural festival. The club and the friendships that have been forged in these twelve episodes seems destined not only to endure for some time, but inspire more to join them. I took a chance on a show about five girls dancing, and I don’t regret it!

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Hanayamata – 11

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In the end, the dream of the five-girl yosakoi club with Hana N. Fontainestand at it’s core performing at Hanairo wasn’t undone by poor planning, or infighting, or stage fright, but a simple but devastating case of horrendous timing on the part of Hana’s mom, who has come to take Hana with her back to the states so they can be a family again. Mind you, that’s another dream of Hana’s, one she’d had before she even met Naru and the others, and strong enough that it wins out.

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For the record, I can’t fault Hana for her choice, but I can fault her mom; it simply isn’t fair to abandon your kid due to work, then change your mind just when she’s already found a new form of happiness with her friends in the yosakoi club. Her mom assumes the only thing in the world that matter to Hana is being together with her mom and dad. It’s a classic case of a parent who simply isn’t there a lot assuming time has stood still in her absence, when that’s far from the case.

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That doesn’t mean Hana is totally absolved of all blame for her predicament, since she never breathes a word about her friends, the club, or how important the festival means to her to her folks. She simply goes along with the plans that are made for her without speaking up until it’s far too late, when she shows up at Naru’s window regretting not saying anything. Perhaps she was worried she’d come off as ungrateful of her mom returning, and that that might even lead to her mom leaving again.

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Both are understandable emotions for a child who yearns for her family to be whole again. Even if she’s hardly been there; even if she chose her job before her family once before, her mom is still her mom. I just wish she’d said something, anything; she may have been able to delay things at least so that she could participate in the festival, and it’s disappointing that she didn’t even try.

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But hey, that’s life, and in the end, she sticks with her choice and is indeed out of there. After leaving a tear-jerking letter for her friends, Yaya (ever the tsundere) leads them on a desperate rush to Narita to see her off, and they’re just able to give her a proper farewell.

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Thus, even with everything almost to the point as we’ve seen it each week in the OP (they wrote and recorded the lyrics), Hanayamata will be missing their integral “Ha”, the one who brought everyone else together, on the eve of their biggest triumph.

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Hanayamata – 10

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Hanayamata wastes no time this week installing Machi as the fifth and final member of the yosakoi club, but she’s not here on a whim: she thought their performance at the department store was woeful, and she’s going to whip them into shape, come hell or high water. But first, with just three weeks left until Hanairo, they must now adjust their choreography and music for five.

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Tami, she of ample means, suggests a training camp at a traditional hot spring inn where her family always has a room reserved, and Machi insists they’ll practice the entire time they’re there. That’s wishful thinking, as the other four members end up pulling all-nighters in order to get their work done, which leaves them somewhat lacking in energy, a problem compounded when they must practice outside in the heat.

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Machi’s bossy, tell-it-as-it-is nature also clashes with Yaya, particularly when she finds out they blew registration deadline for Hanairo, which, I must admit, is pretty bad: if you’re going to work so hard towards such a big event, at least make sure you’ll be in it! Festival or no, Machi is determined to catch up with the others, and practices a lot alone.

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When Sari spots her sister doing this, she lets the others know; moved by Machi’s devotion, they join her in practicing, which then attracts and delights all of the other inn guests. It’s a fun, triumphant moment for the club, as the fates allowed them to perform in front of an interested crowd after all, despite blowing the Hanairo deadline. Machi even cracks a smile.

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Even that turns out to be a false alarm, as we suspected from the start, but for a different reason. We though Sari had already registered and remained quiet after Machi’s discovery in order to motivate the others. Turns out she’s not quite that underhanded. Instead, she contacts the yosakoi store-owner Oofuna Masaru (whom she knows likes her) and asks him if there’s anything he can do.

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He can, and thanks to another group dropping out, Team Hanayamata is officially back in, and new badge design comes to Naru, incorporating five flowers that represent the girls. Everything is looking good, but with Hana’s mother suddenly arriving at Japan, it looks like it’ll be Hana’s turn to have a character episode, much like Naru, Yaya, Machi, and Tami have had before.

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Hanayamata – 09

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While Naru has a serious case of “Oh no, not again!” with regards to her little slip-up, it is quickly acknowledged by everyone else that this is, indeed, not the end of the world, and Naru needn’t commit seppuku about it. If anything, the crowd was probably moved by the camaraderie and love inherent in the other three helping her back to her feet and finishing out their routine.

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The fact that Naru passed out moments after they finished and the general fatigue from lack of sleep due to excitement meant the group wasn’t going to put on a flawless show anyway; Naru just happened to be the first to stumble. However they fared (and they didn’t fare that badly), it was valuable experience to build upon for Hanairo.

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Everything is peachy…until the members find out their club isn’t official yet, since Sally-chan-sensei is just a substitute. This news is first relayed by Sari’s sister, Machi…and that’s no coincidence: Machi doesn’t want messing up Tami and the others like she messed her up. The balance of the episode is about how Machi’s idolization of her big sis evaporated after Sari left home to pursue her own interests.

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It was, as Machi oft repeats, “selfish and irresponsible”, but let’s be honest here: Machi herself is just as guilty of those adjectives. She thinks Sachi will betray and abandon them just they put the most faith in her, but isn’t Machi also afraid that the opposite could happen? That her sister could find happiness advising the Yosakoi Club, and “rub it in her face?”

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Machi has been staring at the flame of resentment she’s kept burning so long, she can’t see past her younger wounded self. In hindsight, she sees that she overreacted to her sister leaving. She knows how much pressure their doctor parents put on them, and Sari didn’t want to be a doctor, she wanted to be a teacher. She also learns that Sari wants to repair their rift, which is why she’s at the school at all. You could say if it wasn’t for Machi, there’d be no Yosakoi Club.

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Now that Machi’s older and wiser, she’s aware of the fact Sari did what she did out of her own personal drive, which everyone has to follow, even if it doesn’t hew to the expectations of those we hold most dear. But Machi wouldn’t have put out that flame if it wasn’t for Tami’s diplomacy. And in exchange for her help, Machi doesn’t refuse an invitation to the Yosakoi Club. We were wondering how she was going to join!

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Hanayamata – 08

“The variety of personality types is perfect!” —Sari-sensei

As this week’s episode crept closer to the girls’ first official public performance, they cross every T and dot every I, and a great deal of anticipation is built up. Finally, it’s happening, after so much hard work and such humble beginnings.

“Practice wherever you are, whatever you’re doing, whenever you can.” —Me

Haru and Tami take Sari-sensei too seriously and get self-consicous about their thighs, leading to last minute exercise. Yaya and Hana remark that they aren’t actually fat, but Yaya also remarks that they could use a little extra stamina.

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They’re inspired to exercise more after Yaya proves how valuable a member not in name only she can be, by adding her drums to Tami’s piano music and making a hip little arrangement: the OP with a synth tone replacing the vocals.

Nice assortment of reactions to the department store shindig

Yaya also proves vital in both the planing and scheduling stages, as she insists they all arrive at the station by 8:00, even though the performance isn’t until 1:00. Sure enough, the other girls are late, but she planned for that, so it’s all good.

“I’ve got your back…literally and figuratively!”

Disaster strikes when they forget the music CD, but Sari’s sister (and Tami’s friend) Machi arrives with it in hand. As soon as this fact is made official, we get a glimpse of their strained relationship, stemming from their different personalities.

Lookin’ good…

Finally, it’s showtime, and everyone is nervous (even Yaya’s legs shake), but once they get up there to before a small but lively crowd, and the music starts, for a pretty decent amount of time the four are kicking ass. And then Naru makes a wrong move, bumps Hana, and falls, dropping her Naruko.

“No…not again….”

It mirrors her bad dream last night, which was actually a memory of falling while cheerleading in elementary school. In the present, we can only watch in horror as everything all of a sudden goes horribly wrong in excruciating slow-motion. Rats…so close!

“Maybe I should join? According to the OP, I DO join, after all…”

But hey, it’s not the end of the world. This is their first show, and it wasn’t meant to be some big unrealistic breakthrough. It was valuable practice for future public performances. We fall down so we can get back up again. I hope Naru remembers that and doesn’t dwell on her failure. Their dancing also seemed to momentarily impress Machi, though it looked like watching her sister watch and cheer them on made her jealous as well.

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Hanayamata – 07

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Hana and Naru’s hold on Yaya in the yosakoi club was always tenuous, due to her insistence on “member in name only” status and her obligations to her band. When Need Cool Quality bombs at their audition and then disbands just as Hana and Naru are trying to involve Yaya more, it’s the perfect recipe for Yaya to blow up. And blow up she does.

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It’s not out of the blue, either: in her wounded state, all the giddy enthusiasm of the yosakoi girls throw at her is akin to mocking or laughing at her misfortune, at least from her perspective. When Tami purports to know exactly what’s going on with Yaya, based on her experience with Machi, Hana and Naru’s super-confident first reconciliation attempt backfires spectacularly—as it should, IMO—leaving them far worse off than if they’d said nothing.

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Yaya and Naru’s dynamic used to be that of the superior perfect idol and the fawning acolyte, respectively. Now Yaya’s band is in a ditch—a decision made by the others without her input, no less—yet Naru and Hana’s yosakoi club is chugging along full speed ahead. She’s jealous of their success, and bitter for having taken her own past success for granted. She’s humbled, embarrassed, gloomy, and generally pissed off.

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Naru and Hana’s first attempt didn’t fail because they were being too lovey-dovey, but because they approached Yaya as if they knew exactly what she was feeling and how to “fix everything”, thus projecting a patronizing, almost haughty tone. They correct that the next time, first luring Yaya to the roof by hurling harsh insults upon her, then acting more contrite, with some desperation and genuine waterworks for good measure.

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Getting someone as stubborn as Yaya to back down from comments like “I hate you all!” and “Don’t talk to me ever again!” is no cakewalk, but they pull it off, accepting all the blame for the recent spat and beg her forgiveness, and cry a lot, giving her tacit permission to do the same. Most importantly, they acknowledge they don’t have all the answers. Hana doesn’t make the strongest case in the climactic exchange, but Naru says more than enough to stick the dramatic landing, leading to tearful catharsis.

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Fox Girl Tami Hugs for Everyone!

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Hanayamata – 06

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Naru has been following through on her efforts to change herself for the better, and those efforts haven’t gone unnoticed by her father. He’s concerned by the change, suspecting everything from delinquency to illicit sexual relations, and even more confused when she asked him if he’s noticed her changing, but he has nothing to fear.

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Naru’s simply found something to be passionate about, and work hard with others on. He unwittingly gives her the idea to make the favorite flowers of its members the theme of their yosakoi club. But with only two months to prepare for the Hanairo Festival, they decide that a smaller event would be better in order to test how they’ll perform for a crowd.

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Hana finds such an event at a department store, but numerous hurdles stand in their way. Sari is working hard not to be a pushover, and denies permission to participate unless they all score an average of 80 in their exams and show her their complete performance beforehand. Yaya also has to prepare for her band’s audition, which is a big deal to her and her bandmates. (Interestingly, we don’t get to watch their audition.)

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In the end, Hana doesn’t score high enough, but turns in supplementary work to Sari, not to change her mind, but to show her she’s working hard. When she accidentally gives Sari a notebook with their choreography, Sari starts to have a change of heart, and changes her mind after seeing them perform in front of the class.

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That first impromptu public performance comes when a classmate spots the naruko in Yaya’s hand, and Hana gets the idea to show rather than tell the class exactly what they’re up to. It’s certainly not a perfect or even complete performance, but you have to start somewhere. Also, the music Tami wrote is a really nice piano arrangement of the opening theme.

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But while the yosakoi club enjoys a victory this week, Yaya’s band did not qualify, and they look pretty forlorn about it. At this point I’m sure Yaya is wondering whether her drumming suffered due to diverting some of her passion and energy to yosakoi. The time may come when she’ll have to choose one or the other, and it won’t be an easy choice.

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